Practical and emotional support
Work, money and practical help if you're at high risk
This page explains what support is available with work, money, food and medicines as shielding is paused.
Page last updated 30 March 2021
Coronavirus restrictions are beginning to ease and and shielding is paused from 2 April 2021 in England and Wales, 12 April 2021 in Northern Ireland and 26 April 2021 in Scotland.
This page tells you what you can do if you're worried about work, money, or getting food or medicines after shielding, and what support is still available.
What you need to know
The guidance about work varies depending on where you live, and whether shielding has been paused there.
This is the guidance until 31st March in England and Wales, 11th April in Northern Ireland, and 25th April in Level 4 areas of Scotland:
- Everyone who's clinically extremely vulnerable should still be supported to work from home wherever possible, even if this involves changing your role.
- You can ask to be furloughed based on your vulnerability.
- If you can't work from home or be furloughed, the current advice is that you do not attend work. You may be eligible for sick pay.
- See our Money and work page for help talking to your employer about the options, and understanding your rights as someone with cancer.
From 1st April in England and Wales, 12th April in Northern Ireland, and 26th April in Scotland the guidance is changing:
- Shielding will be paused, because coronavirus rates in the community are now lower than they were.
- Anyone who can work from home should still work from home.
- You can continue to use the furlough scheme until 30 September 2021 if you are clinically extremely vulnerable and your employer agrees.
- If you can't work from home or go on furlough, you are no longer advised to stay off work, however, you should only attend work if your workplace is COVID-safe.
- You will no longer be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) solely on the basis of being advised to shield.
- You do still have rights as someone with cancer. Your employer has a duty to treat you fairly. You may be able to request adjustments to your role, or have time off, to protect your health. If you're worried about your health or safety when returning to work, read our Money and work page.
Nobody with blood cancer should be going to work if their workplace isn't COVID-safe, wherever they live.
If you're worried about your health or safety at work, there are other options available such as requesting adjustments to your role or accessing sick pay or other financial support.
See our page on money and work for more detail about your rights, your options, talking to your employer, and getting support.
Fact sheet to share with your employer
Order or download this fact sheet for talking to your employer. It explains blood cancer, the risk of coronavirus, and your rights at work.
Working when you're clinically extremely vulnerable
How the pandemic has affected working lives – five stories from people with blood cancer.
How to protect your income
- Work from home if you can – read more about how to request this on our Money and work page.
- Furlough – the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended until the end of September 2021 and you can continue to use it if your employer agrees.
- Sick pay – if your GP or healthcare team believe you're not able to work, they can give you a fit note in the normal way. This gives you access to your company's sick pay policy, or Statutory Sick Pay.
- Other benefits – you may be entitled to other benefits. Find out more on our Money and work page.
- If you are self-employed, you can still get support from the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. You can also find out more about other financial support.
Find out more about all of these options on our Money and work page.
If you're on a low income
To find out more about benefits you may be entitled to, ask your GP, clinical nurse specialist or doctor. You can also contact Citizens Advice on 0344 411 1444 or Macmillan Cancer Support on 0808 808 00 00.
There are many other ways you can save money:
- You can get support with health-related costs (such as travel costs and prescriptions).
- You may be able to access financial support from charities.
- It may be possible to agree adjustments to payment schedules with energy suppliers or mortgage lenders.
See our page on Money and work for more information about these options.
The Shielded Patient List
The Shielded Patient List is the list of people who are considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable and therefore at higher risk of serious complications if they get coronavirus. Being on this list has been the main way to qualify for help since the coronavirus outbreak started in the UK.
If you’re newly diagnosed with blood cancer, or your situation changes and your healthcare team or GP think you’re at high risk, your name can still be added to the Shielded Patient List. Similarly, if you think you should be on the list but still haven't had a letter, speak to your healthcare team, as they will be able to add you to the list if necessary.
Being on the Shielded Patient List is important because it can give you access to the coronavirus vaccine, including boosters for at-risk groups later this year. It also confirms you are clinically extremely vulnerable if, for example, you need to discuss safety at work with your employer.
Use this document from Blood Cancer UK if you need help asking your GP to add you to the Shielded Patient List:
Food and essential supplies
When considering how to manage your food shopping after shielding, you may find it helpful to think about your personal level of risk. Read our information on understanding your level of risk and speak to your healthcare team or GP about your own circumstances.
- If you already have a priority delivery slot with a supermarket, this will continue until 21 June 2021. In England and Wales, you won't be able to register for priority delivery slots after 31 March.
- If you cannot get supermarket deliveries and feel cautious about going to the shops in person, consider asking friends and family to do essential shopping for you.
- If you go shopping yourself, then go at less busy times, if you can. Sometimes supermarkets publish information on peak and quiet times in their stores. They also have information on the steps they are taking to protect shoppers. Remember that cleaning your hands, wearing a face covering (unless you are exempt) and keeping two metres (three steps) away from others can help to stop the spread of coronavirus.
- There’s an app called Jisp which works with independent retailers to offer home delivery and click & collect from your local shops. If you struggle to get supermarket delivery slots, or want to get deliveries from local retailers, you might want to try Jisp.
- If you're self-isolating because you have coronavirus symptoms or have been in contact with someone with coronavirus, don't leave your home to do food shopping. Ask friends or neighbours to help or use the local sources of support listed below.
These sources of support for food shopping continue to be available:
- In England, NHS Volunteer Responders will do essential shopping for you if you've ever been advised to shield by a healthcare professional, if you're vulnerable because of your age or health, if you have caring responsibilities, or if you're self-isolating for any reason. If you struggle to get food supplies, contact your local council.
- In Scotland, you can still sign up for priority access to online delivery slots with a range of supermarkets, or ask friends, family or neighbours to shop for you. If you need help with shopping and don't have a support network call the national COVID-19 helpline on 0800 111 4000.
- In Wales, you can find a local voluntary organisation or contact your local council if you need help with food shopping.
- In Northern Ireland, call the COVID-19 Community Helpline on 0808 802 0020, email [email protected] or text ACTION to 81025 for help.
Consider asking family, friends or neighbours to pick up medicines for you. If you don't have anyone who can help, here are other ways to get the medicines you need while shielding:
- Many GPs let you request repeat prescriptions via email, phone or their website. Contact your GP to find out the easiest way for you.
- In England, you can register for help from the NHS Volunteer Responders. You can also contact your pharmacy, tell them you're clinically extremely vulnerable and need your medicines delivered. They should arrange this free of charge. NHS Health at home has advice on ordering repeat prescriptions online.
- In Scotland, contact your pharmacy, tell them you've been asked to shield in the past and ask if they offer free medicine delivery. Or call the national COVID-19 helpline on 0800 111 4000.
- In Wales, contact your pharmacy and tell them you are at high risk. You can also contact local voluntary organisations to get help from a voluntary organisation near you.
- In Northern Ireland, contact your pharmacy or the COVID-19 Community Helpline on 0808 802 0020, email [email protected] or text ACTION to 81025.
- If you need urgent support, contact your local authority and tell them your situation.
Key contacts for government and local authority support
If you are vulnerable and need help, here are the key ways to find out about support:
- In all four nations of the UK, enter your postcode here and you’ll be linked to your local authority’s website with details of how to contact them.
- In Scotland, the national COVID-19 helpline is open and will put you in contact with your local authority: call free on 0800 111 4000, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
- In Northern Ireland you can call the free COVID-19 community helpline on 0808 802 0020, email [email protected] or text ACTION to 81025.
Support from voluntary organisations
- In England, you can register for help from the NHS Volunteer Responders. Carers can also apply to NHS Volunteer Responders on behalf of someone else, or for support for themselves to fulfil their caring role.
- In Wales, you can contact your local County Voluntary Council for help from voluntary organisations.
- There are local groups and charities offering support to those in need – contact your local authority to find out what's available or search online.
Keep updated about coronavirus and blood cancer
Join our mailing list for key updates about coronavirus for people with blood cancer, what we're doing to help, and ways you can help, including campaigns you may be interested in.
Support for you
Call our free and confidential support line on 0808 2080 888. We are currently receiving a very high volume of calls related to coronavirus, so if you're not able to get through straight away, please leave a message and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.
You can also email us if you prefer to get in contact that way. We'll usually get back to you within two working days, but due to the current rate of calls and emails we are currently receiving it may take us longer.
Talk to other people with blood cancer on our Online Community Forum – there is a group for coronavirus questions and support.
You can also find out what's helping other people affected by blood cancer through coronavirus and beyond in our pages on living well with or after blood cancer.